Women break six-decade-old social barrier to come & vote | kolkata | Hindustan Times
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Women break six-decade-old social barrier to come & vote

Overcoming an almost six-decade-old social barrier, 29 women from a village in West Bengal's Purulia exercised their franchise for the first time since Independence, by voting in the assembly election on Saturday, said an official.

kolkata Updated: May 08, 2011 13:38 IST

Overcoming an almost six-decade-old social barrier, 29 women from a village in West Bengal's Purulia exercised their franchise for the first time since Independence, by voting in the assembly election on Saturday, said an official.

"It is a great achievement for us that we have been able to make the women voters of Nutondi village in Raghunathpur block-2 conscious of their voting rights. And they have turned up for voting in booth number 59 of Para assembly constituency for the first time in independent India," said election official and Para block development officer (BDO) Kaushik Bhattacharya.

There are 691 women voters out of the 1,452-strong electorate in Nutondi village. Since Independence, none of these women from conservative Muslim families in the village had ever voted.

After the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, when the young BDO came to know that these women have always stayed away from the polling booths, he started making enquiries.

It was found that not only have women from the village never participated in any election since Independence; they have not even had photo-identity cards (EPIC). Only the male members of their families have taken part in elections all this time.

"There was no social prejudice or any religious diktat barring the women voters from exercising their franchise. It was only a mental segregation, which prevented them so long from participating in the democratic exercise. We were waiting for someone who can come forward to break the shackles," Bhattacharya said.

Last year, a meeting was held in the village attended by the religious head, senior men and the government and Election Commission officials to ascertain what prevented the women from voting.

The officials after the meeting concluded that these burqa-clad Muslim women were reluctant to remove the veil in the presence of male election officials to get their photos clicked for the EPIC.

"Also, they were reluctant to vote because the elections are generally conducted by men," said the BDO.So, the Election Commission (EC) and the state government appointed women officials who went from door to door to take photographs of the women voters and enlisted them in the electoral rolls.